When did you decide that you were fat? Or maybe you didn’t decide you were fat, but you decided that you needed to lose weight. I would bet that every woman who has ever read a fashion magazine or watched a television show has felt that there is something wrong with the way she looks. I’ve felt like I needed to lose weight for pretty much my whole life, but there is a moment that stands out in my mind as the point where I knew that was important. It was my 6th grade graduation. I was 11. Crazy, right?
My ideas about my weight were inextricably linked to my mom’s feelings about weight. I remember so clearly a moment at the party for my sixth grade graduation where there was a long table filled with cookies and food. My mom came up to me and said, “you can have whatever you want. This is a special day.” When I look back, I wonder how limited I had been in my diet before that. Was I already on a diet? When did that start? I wonder how young I was when I started worrying about my weight. Also, in that moment, food was linked to a reward and to things that were special. This is something that I have since learned is a real trap, especially when you’re on a diet. At that moment though I remember feeling excited and free from restriction. I honestly don’t remember how much I ate or if I felt guilty afterwards, I just remember that moment as a point of clarity in my struggle against my weight.
All through high school I worried about how I looked. I remember so many times looking in the mirror and switching back and forth between what I thought other people might see and what I myself saw. I saw someone who was too fat, whose body had no definition, who needed to do about 1000 more crunches a day to get even close to a flat stomach. Too bad that I hated working out and never really found anything that made me happy and satisfied my parents desire that I exercise. Tap and cheerleading didn’t count. I liked spinning, but as a teenager didn’t want my parents to know that maybe we had reached a compromise. Instead I had to suffer the back and forth of looking at myself in the mirror.
If you had seen me when I was in high school you would not have thought I was over weight. I think deep down I knew that, which is why I spent so much time trying to determine what other people saw. You would have seen an average girl who maybe didn’t quite know how to dress. There were always shirts that were too short or I would try trends that I had no business wearing. Overall though, when I look back at old pictures, I don’t wish I was thinner, I wish that I had had better style and had appreciated my body for how cute it was when I was 16. I’m sad I was so mean to myself for so long.
Even now, I may be in a much more enlightened place when it comes to how I look, but I still try to measure myself against other women. I actually think that I spend more time checking out women in New York than men. I’m trying to determine where I fit in, I guess, in terms of size. Maybe I’m smaller than one woman, but bigger than the next. She has a flatter stomach than me, but I have bigger boobs. She has great arms, but mine really aren’t so bad either. I’m trying to calibrate my own image against theirs, just to make sure I’m “normal.” I see women wearing great clothes, or tight jeans, or anything I would only dream of putting on, and I admire them. I take inspiration from the women of all shapes and sizes who are so beautiful and seem to be appreciating themselves. Even the larger women who are wearing clothes that might seem too tight to an outsider. Than woman is rocking her outfit, she’s not concerned about what anyone else thinks about her. I feel in solidarity with the women in this city who don’t have perfect bodies, and, because of that, look beautiful. Even though all of those women may feel like there is something wrong with them and that they still need to lose that “last 10 pounds,” I appreciate them.
There was a great article in the Times a couple of weeks ago about “larger” woman taking over on television, with women like Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham each having their own shows. I am so excited by this trend, and can only hope that it continues and spreads to magazines and the movies so that all of us can stop judging ourselves and each other and just be grateful for ourselves.
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